The Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre (ADSCC) will study the safety and effectiveness of Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-Cell therapy to combat cancers like myeloma, lymphoma and certain forms of leukaemia. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A leading research centre in Abu Dhabi will soon begin to locally produce and test the effectiveness an immunisation therapy for the treatment of blood cancers.

The Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Centre (ADSCC) will study the safety and effectiveness of Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-Cell therapy to combat cancers like myeloma, lymphoma and certain forms of leukaemia, it said in a statement on Thursday. CAR T-Cell therapy is a recognised form of immunotherapy in which T-Cells — a type of white blood cell produced by the thymus gland — are reprogrammed to search and destroy cancer cells. These reprgrammed T-Cells or T-lymphocytes therefore act like living drugs that mobilise through the body, and continually tap the patient’s immune system to attack the disease.

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Innovative treatment

“We are proud to be the first in the UAE and region to locally manufacture this new and innovative treatment in its entirety, and to conduct research to better understand the effects it has on tumour cells. As a local research institute, we are committed to contributing to Abu Dhabi’s vision of becoming a knowledge-based economy and we continue to invest in cutting-edge research, home-grown, to ensure the people of the UAE and beyond get the best care possible,” said Dr Fatema Al Kaabi, director of the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant Programme, and co-principal investigator of the CAR T-Cell clinical trial.

Developed in partnership with biomedical research firm, Miltenyi Biotec, the CAR T-Cell clinical trial will involve the use of apheresis — a minimally invasive blood donation process that separates blood components for analysis and treatment. A genetic modification is then performed to the T-Cell so that they attack only the identified tumour cells for each patient.

Cancer treatment

“Cancer treatment continues to be one of the world’s most complex and challenging medical journeys which emphasizes the growing need for locally generated research and therapeutic innovations. Understanding the effect of CAR T-Cells among patients will be a long and laborious process, but it also represents an incredible chapter in the UAE’s history, placing it on the world map as a leader in medical innovation and R&D. Our world-leading doctors and researchers, in collaboration with our partners at Miltenyi Biotec, are paving the path for cutting-edge treatments in the speedy pursuit of a healthier society, while establishing the Abu Dhabi as a global hub for healthcare, innovation, and research,” said Dr Yendry Ventura Carmenate, immunology specialist, ADSCC general manager and principal investigator of the trial.

Viral vectors

The genetic modification of immune cells involves the use of viral vectors — tools that are commonly used by molecular biologists to deliver materials and information into cells. Viral vectors were most recently used for the global production of certain COVID-19 vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus — the vector — to deliver important instructions to our cells. For the trial, these viral vectors are being produced internationally in partnership with Miltenyi Biotec.

Clinical trials

“We want to ensure that the immune cells we modify effectively target the tumour cells in each patient so we can help guide them on the path to remission. This is where the role of viral vectors and the partnership with Miltenyi Biotec is key. By combining the best manufacturing practices with cutting-edge research expertise at the ADSCC, we are confident in achieving successful clinical trials and, ultimately, building a robust CAR T-Cell treatment program in Abu Dhabi,” added Dr Rupert Handgretinger, head of adoptive cells transfer section and head of paediatric service at the Abu Dhabi Bone Marrow Transplant Programme.

The ADSCC was founded in 2019 with the primary objective of meeting growing domestic and regional demand for advanced medical services innovative treatments. It delivers research on stem cells in the region.